Monkeypox: Bayelsa residents avoid handshakes,
Government Sets Up Rapid Response Squad To Curtail Spread
Residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, are avoiding handshakes and bodily contact in public places following the outbreak of monkeypox viral disease, which has infected 13 people, including a medical doctor.
According to NAN, many people at public functions on Thursday and yesterday in Yenagoa kept their distance and avoided handshakes and hugs that characterised exchange of pleasantries at social functions.
Some people who spoke during Thursday’s World Teachers Day celebration in Yenagoa said the precautionary measure was justified due to the anxiety created by the news of the dreaded disease on social media.
“This issue of avoiding handshakes reminds one of the days of Ebola, which compelled everyone to heighten personal hygiene. “It is based on advice that we should wash hands frequently, and if my hand is clean, I would endanger myself by shaking hands with someone with unwashed hands,” one respondent said.
Residents across the state capital have been circulating text messages urging people to abstain from shaking hands due to the outbreak of the disease.
As part of efforts to curtail the spread of the epidemic, the Bayelsa State Government has inaugurated a 12-member rapid response team, comprising top medical professionals.
The committee, whose mandate is to prevent the spread of the disease, besides the 12- member core team, is also made up of other sub-teams to carry out contact tracing of patients.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the abstention from handshakes followed an advice by the Commissioner for Health, Prof Ebitimitula Etebu, to members of the public to wash hands frequently and maintain higher level of personal hygiene to curtail the spread of the disease.
This is just as authorities of the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) disclosed that the infected medical doctor and the 11-years-old boy earlier quarantined in the hospital have been treated and discharged.
Etebu, who inaugurated the committee, reassured the people that there was no need to panic, saying the state had 13 suspected cases at different stages of recovery, following treatment at the makeshift isolation ward at the NDUTH, Okolobiri.
He also said that over 50 persons were being actively followed at differently located places in the state, stressing that the situation was not beyond control, but restated the need for people to observe the simple hygiene of washing hands, noting that government has handed over some boxes of hand sanitizers to the team entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the disease.
Etebu stated: ‘”The state Ministry of Health, with the support of the international community, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), international partners, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have since embarked on enlightenment campaigns.
“Active disease surveillance has also been carried, case management and other sundry measures have also been carried out in a bid to halt the spread of the disease in the state.
“New suspected cases are being reported everyday in the state. The situation can get out of hand if critical measures are not quickly put in place, and that is why we have thought it expedient to inform the public.
“The essence is to allay the general public of the fact that there is no need to panic; it does not call for any fear. The government is on top of the situation.
He said the disease is transmitted when a person comes in contact with the virus from animals or materials that are contaminated with the virus, noting that the virus enters the body through broken skin that is usually not visible and through respiratory tract or the mucus membrane in the eyes, in the nose and in the mouth.
He said animal to human transmission could occur by the bite of many bush animals and it could also occur through a direct contact with body fluids or lesions of patients that had already come down with the disease.
“It can also be contracted through contaminated beddings and so on and so forth. Human to human transmission occurs through droplet infection with direct contact with body fluids or lesions or materials that are in direct contact with contaminated clothings and the like.
“So, the simple measures we have been propagating and sensitising people and creating awareness is that if you maintain simple hygiene of washing your hands when you touch animals, whether dead or alive, when you go to toilet and so on, will help prevent transmission of this virus.
“We are telling the public that if you see anybody that has developed an unusual rash that is similar to chicken pox rash or small pox, immediately contact us or advise the person to go to the nearest health facility.”
The commissioner recalled that the first index case came from Agbura in Yenagoa, where somebody was purported to have killed and ate monkey meat and started developing rashes.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Markson Iworiso, said the government was embarking on practical steps to ensure that the disease was prevented from spreading, urging the people to report all cases of unusual rash to the medical facilities for necessary action.
The Chief Medical Director of NDUTH, Prof Dimie Ogoina, said the affected victims were responding to treatment and stressed the need for the creation of awareness to effectively arrest the disease.
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